Injured Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was arrested resisting arrest after an early-morning incident where police say it took three officers to subdue him — just as it does on the football field.Peterson was at a downtown nightclub early Saturday morning when an off-duty Houston police officer working security asked Peterson and a group of people he was with to leave because the club had closed, according to police.The security guard identified himself as a police officer. The officer left to tell other patrons to leave the club before returning to Peterson’s group again to tell it to leave.Peterson, according to police, turned around and told the officer that he heard him the first time and pushed him in the shoulder, causing him to stumble. The officer told Peterson he was under arrest and to put his hands behind his back. Peterson began yelling, pulled away and “assumed an aggressive stance,” so another off-duty officer came to help. Peterson continued to struggle with both.The 27-year-old player finally was handcuffed with the help of a third off-duty officer. Peterson complained of shortness of breath after he was taken to a Houston jail and was examined by Houston Fire Department personnel, who said he was OK.Peterson, from Palestine, Texas, was released from jail Saturday on a $1,000 bond. The charge is a misdemeanor, and Peterson is due in court on Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle.Team spokesman Bob Hagan said Saturday the Vikings “are aware of the situation and are gathering more information.”Peterson ran for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns last season before tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 24. The injury-shortened season broke a streak of four straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards rushing for the former Oklahoma standout. He reportedly has been ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.
-102.22.9Two53.15.2Two -153rd✓04-0.21 0to1The lead+8.4 EST. CHANGE IN WIN PROB. IF YOU GET …EST. CHANGE IN WIN PROB. IF YOU GET … 2to3Puts you up a field goal+6.5 MARGINQUARTERBETTER TO GO FOR 2?CORRECT DECISIONSCLEARLY INCORRECT DECISIONSAVG. WIN PROB IMPACT OF MISTAKES -84th✓027-0.90 -64th✓02-0.33 SITUATIONWHAT COACHES DID -130.41.1Two26.55.0One -53rd✓15-0.71 -92.93.3Same65.23.3One 16to17Puts you up three scores+0.2 4to5A generic point+2.9 MARGIN AFTER TD+1+2 (VS. +1)BETTER OPTIONMARGIN AFTER TD+1+2 (VS. +1)BETTER OPTION 13to14Puts you up two touchdowns+1.0 14to15Puts you up two TDs with a 2-point conversion+0.5 8to9Puts you up two scores+2.9 -45.06.5Two111.10.4One Win probability changes apply to the listed situations when there are 10 minutes remaining in the game. I won’t subject you to my guesses, but the model matched up fairly well. The most counterintuitive one to me is that the difference between being up 7 and being up 8 (3.3 percentage points) is virtually the same as the difference between being up 8 and being up 9 (2.9 percentage points). Thus the “two score” threshold doesn’t seem to be as important as I would have thought, even that late in the game.Note that as the leading team’s advantage increases, the marginal value of each point tends to get smaller — this illustrates why teams that are ahead by a lot should tend to go for 1 (because extending your lead gets less and less valuable the bigger it is) and teams that are behind by a lot should tend to go for 2 (because cutting your deficit gets more and more valuable the smaller it is).Those changes to a team’s win probability are all that’s needed to construct a rudimentary “Go or No” chart (for 10 minutes left). What matters is whether a point is more or less valuable than its neighbors. So for a team up 5 points, the question is whether the next advantage (“5 to 6: Puts you up two field goals” in the table above) is more or less valuable than the one after that, (“6 to 7: Puts you up a touchdown”). Make that comparison for each point margin from -15 to +14, and voila: -83.35.2Two73.32.9Same 11to12Puts you up more than a touchdown and a field goal+1.1 12to13Puts you up a touchdown and two field goals+0.4 -44th✓019-1.92 +114th52-0.28 -150.51.0Two08.41.8One -133rd✓02-0.31 “I can’t help but ask, one day many years later, when you find your previous awareness, cognition and choices are all wrong, will you keep going along the wrong path or reject yourself?” — Gu Li, a 9-dan Go champion, after losing to AlphaGo, Google’s nigh-unbeatable deep learning AI.With 5:16 left in the third quarter of their wild-card playoff game in January, the New York Giants scored a touchdown to pull within 2 points of the Green Bay Packers. Despite having the opportunity to tie the game with a 2-point conversion, the Giants proceeded to kick an extra point. Yet, rather than criticize the decision for materially damaging the Giants’ chances of advancing in the playoffs, commentator Troy Aikman praised the move, explaining that “the chart would say go for 2 and try to tie it up,” but “there’s a lot of time left in this game.”1Here’s the full quote: “We didn’t get a chance to talk about it, but Ben McAdoo, he kicks the extra point. You know, the chart would say go for 2 and try to tie it up. But I agree with the decision not to and kick the extra point. There’s a lot of time left in this game. It seems if you don’t make that, then you’re constantly chasing that 1 point. I think it was a good decision by him, just taking the extra point, and keeping it a 1-point game.”Despite the revolution taking place in basketball, despite Theo Epstein ending the two greatest curses in sports, despite AlphaGo going 60-0 against top human players, despite all evidence to the contrary, football stubbornly clings to the notion that experience always trumps analysis. Although NFL coaches have a level of expertise about the game of football that most of us will never approach, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt when they’ve collectively demonstrated an inability to master basic tactical decisions — like when you should go for 2 points when your team is down 2 points (spoiler: pretty much always).Which is not to say their resistance to change is entirely unfounded. I see the value in being cautious about adopting new strategies and generally think the burden should be on the purveyors of new techniques and tactics not only to find rigorous, workable proposals, but also to explain them compellingly — for coaches, players, decision-makers and the sports-viewing public.In that spirit, let’s try to figure out when you should go for 2. For real.Finding the right questionLet’s say you’re skeptical about WPA and EPA and OSHA and RADAR and WAROZ and other collections of capital letters that tell you what to do. I get that — I can be skeptical myself.2For example, I’ve argued that fourth-down models should give kickers more credit for being awesome (at least one popular model made some tweaks after that). So before we stick a model on it, let’s try to reason our way through the question.The math would be more complicated if the NFL hadn’t moved the extra point back to the 15-yard line. But now going for 1 and going for 2 yield more or less the same number of points, on average, once you factor in how likely each is to succeed. If you go for 1 point, you’ll likely succeed around 95 percent of the time3Kickers have hit 94 percent under the new rule so far but appear to be running slightly below expectation for kicks from that location, even before factoring in the likelihood that they’ll get better.; if you go for 2 points, you’ll cash in roughly half as often,4Pinning down an exact number on this is surprisingly tricky. Teams have converted 48 percent over the past two years, consistent with their longer-run averages. But a “true” league average may be slightly higher because teams that attempt 2-point conversions tend to be slightly worse teams on average than the league as a whole (because teams tend to go for 2 more when they’re behind). In other words, the assumptions for this analysis are mildly friendly to the status quo. with twice the prize. But the fact that these have equal expected values (~0.95 points) doesn’t mean a coach should be indifferent between the two — and it certainly doesn’t mean he should take the “low risk” option by default (as coaches still seem wont to do). It means the decision ultimately turns on one simple question:Which would improve our chances of winning more, the first point or the second point?The beauty is that you don’t even need to figure out an exact value for each option — you only need to know which is more valuable. If the second point would improve your chances of winning more than the first one, then “risking” the first point to go for 2 improves your chances of winning overall.Since scoring in the NFL comes mostly in chunks of 3 and 7, different point margins have different, non-uniform implications for winning chances. For example, the other team is generally far more likely to score 3 more points (from a field goal) than it is 2 more points (from a safety), so being up 3 points is significantly better than being up 2. Being up 2 points, though, is only slightly better than being up 1 (since you’d lose the lead on a field goal either way). The good news is that the relative importance of each point is fairly intuitive.Each potential lead has different implications and benefits, like putting the leading team up a field goal or a touchdown. The marginal value of a point is just the difference between neighboring scenarios (like the value of being up 3 points instead of 2). Let’s imagine that there are 10 minutes left in a game. Think about each scenario and what it gives you, and you can probably estimate the marginal value of points pretty well. I tried this myself: First, I came up with a basic list of benefits that each additional point of a lead gets you. Then I guessed the relative importance of each (for a game with 10 minutes left). Then I checked my guesses against the marginal value for each point, as suggested by ESPN’s expected win percentage model: -141.00.4One11.86.5Two -21.88.4Two131.00.5One -111.32.2Two42.93.1Same 9to10Puts you up by a touchdown and a field goal+2.2 GOING FROM A LEAD OF… GIVES YOU THE TACTICAL BENEFIT OF… AND A WIN PROBABILITY CHANGE OF +124th✓72-0.24 -83rd✓013-0.79 6to7Puts you up a touchdown+5.2 -52.95.0Two101.31.1Same -75.23.1One82.92.2One Win probability changes apply to the listed situations when there are 10 minutes remaining in the game. For any particular point margin, if the two options have a similar shade, that means there’s not much difference between them.5Note that the value estimates reverse-mirror each other on either side of -1: Being up by 4 with a chance to go up by 5 or 6, for example, covers basically the same turf as being down by 6 with a chance to go down by 5 or 4 (so -6 and +4 are the same comparison), intuitively. The model is capable of picking up the very, very slight differences that result from the opposing team getting the next possession, but none of those affect any of the “calls” here. When we start applying the model to more scenarios, however, we’ll calculate exact values for each margin on its own. But if one is shaded significantly darker, it means that that point has significantly more value, and you should probably pick the corresponding strategy.We’re going to go a lot further with this, but even this first cut of analysis reveals a couple of important cases where the conventional wisdom is wrong. In particular:If you’re down 8 points after scoring a touchdown (with 10 minutes left), you should go for 2, because the difference between being down 7 points (if you make the extra point) and being down 6 points (if you convert the 2) is greater than the difference between being down 7 points and being down 8 points (if you miss the 2-point conversion). Note that this is backed up by the numbers but should also be apparent intuitively.6This is a more generalized version of the well-known case of being down 8 with only time for one more score.If you’re down 4 points after scoring a touchdown (with 10 minutes left), you should go for 2, because being down 2 points instead of 3 helps you more than being down 4 points instead of 3 hurts you. This one is a bit more counterintuitive, but if you think ahead, the second point means a future field goal could win the game (and if you don’t convert, you just have to adjust to go for winning touchdowns instead of tying field goals).Failing to go for 2 in these situations turns out to be two of the most common, costly and clear-cut mistakes that even the best coaches make virtually every time.Finding all the answersNow, that’s just a snapshot of what coaches should do with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The particular values of different point spreads shift quite a bit depending on how much time remains. When there isn’t much time remaining, being up 1 point instead of 0 is way, way more valuable than being up 2 points instead of 17As you get even closer to the end of the game, very specific tactical considerations — like whether you’re likely to have zero or one or two more possessions — start to dominate as well.; but very early in the game, when there are likely many scores to come, even that difference is fairly small. Which is to say, earlier in the game, points are significantly more fungible.So coming up with a complete guide to 2-point conversions merely involves repeating the process above, but for every possible combination of point spread and time remaining. For this, we’re going to let ESPN/Brian Burke’s expected wins model do the heavy lifting.8Note: You don’t have to be in love with this model for it to suffice for these purposes. Predicting how often teams with a certain-sized lead will win from various points of the game is what it’s best at. Moreover, since all of this is based on league averages and no coach likes to think of his team as average, we need to compute all the scenarios for different types of teams, based on how good (or bad) they are at 2-point conversions. (Scenarios within scenarios!)Bleep-bloop-bleep — that was easy. Now let’s combine all of that into one chart: 3to4Puts you up more than a field goal+5.0 The most common and significant mistakes by far are failing to go for 2 when down 4, 8 or 11 late in the game: Of 81 such clear-cut decisions, coaches got it right a combined zero times. They also kicked the extra point down 2 in the third quarter five times, when they clearly shouldn’t have, and once in the fourth(!) for good measure.There is no excuse for professional coaches to make such simple mistakes. If you’re a coach, you should be doing this analysis yourself — or doing it better. If you’re still kicking extra points 14 times more often than going for 2, you’re not doing your job. If you’re in the sports media and you haven’t mastered this material, and won’t hold coaches accountable for not doing their jobs, then you’re not doing your job either.CORRECTION (Feb. 4, 10:11 p.m.): An earlier version of this article contained a table that inaccurately listed “one” as the better option when up 7 points after a touchdown. Since the difference between going for 1 and going for 2 in that scenario was less than 0.5 percent, it should have said “same.”VIDEO: The Patriots better worry about Julio Jones -113rd✓06-0.51 In the chart above, orange means go for 2, purple means kick the extra point.9A couple of notes: Quarters are shaded using both their average result and their standard deviation, although there are some cases (like the fourth-quarter section of the +8 box) in which there can be significant changes within a quarter, so make sure to check the lines and ranges and not just the rectangles! The small gap in each mini-chart just before the end of the first half exists for technical reasons having to do with how the model handles the discontinuity at halftime. Each vertical line within each mini-chart represents a range from a terrible 2-point conversion team (40 percent conversion rate) at the bottom to an amazing one (55 percent) at the top. That range is pretty wide and should cover most knowable matchup advantages, like facing a particularly good defense, having injured players, it being windy, your team being an underdog, etc. (We’ll disregard how these excuses seem to lead every coach to make the same decisions every time.)But enough about how to read the chart — here are some of the main things that popped out at me:When a team is down 2, it should go for 2 — pretty much any time, but especially in the third quarter and beyond.As previously noted, being down 8 and being down 4 in the fourth quarter are clear “go” situations. Yet no coach has gone for 2 in either of these spots in the past two years. The NFL’s extra point rule change practically begged coaches to go for 2 more often, and not one has tried to pluck even a single one of the lowest hanging fruit.Cases like going for 2 when up 5 or 8 early (aiming to go up 7 or 10) show small but fairly clear advantages. They may not be super costly, but mistakes are mistakes.When down 9 points late-ish, there’s a case that you should go for 2, because being down 8, you would have to go for 2 to draw even eventually anyway, and it’s better to know whether you converted your attempt earlier so you can make tactical adjustments. Although this logic seems sound, the data doesn’t suggest the effect is very significant (if it exists at all).One special case: when a team scores a touchdown late to narrow the score to 1 point and then a coach has to decide whether to go for an extra point and the tie or 2 points and the win. Amazingly, this is the one situation in which coaches have broken with orthodoxy and gone for 2 occasionally — even though the chart suggests that it often isn’t justified.Whether to “go for the win” or not in this situation is intrinsically a pretty even decision — the difference between being up 1 and tied is the same as the difference between being down 1 and tied — and depends largely on how good your 2-point conversion unit is (note the tall lines in the -1 box). But toward the end of the game, remaining time becomes an extremely important factor. In particular, when your opponent is likely to get another possession and your team is not, going for 2 becomes something a coach probably shouldn’t do. This is because if the other team goes down 1, it may end up driving for a game-winning field goal with nothing to lose. Because the opponent is likely to take a lot of risks, go for it on fourth down, etc., those drives have a disproportionately high success rate. In this case, playing for the tie to get into overtime becomes the far better strategy.Passing judgmentOut of 1,897 post-touchdown decisions10Excluding cases in which the ball wasn’t spotted on the 15-yard line for an extra point or on the 2-yard line for a conversion attempt. in the last two years (including the playoffs), coaches should have attempted to go for 2 approximately 690 times, of which they only did 107.11Based on league-average 2-point conversion ability. Overall, coaches made 607 “mistakes” (either by kicking when they should have gone for 2 or vice versa), although the vast majority weren’t very costly one way or the other. They made 127 decisions that were “clear-cut” mistakes — meaning that they’d be mistakes for virtually any team, regardless of whether it was terrible (40 percent) or excellent (55 percent) at conversions. And 124 of those were failing to go for 2 when the situation clearly warranted it. Here are the “clear-cut” decisions that coaches got wrong most often, along with the average amount those mistakes cost their team: -173rd✓12-0.22 The most common 2-point decision mistakes, 2015 and 2016 10to11Puts you up by a TD with a 2-point conversion and a FG+1.3 -154th✓09-0.16 -18.48.4Same140.50.7Same +13rd✓42-0.93 -23rd✓45-1.02 15to16Puts you up two TDs with two 2-point conversions+0.7 5to6Puts you up two field goals+3.1 -63.12.9Same92.21.3One -36.51.8One120.41.0Two Among scenarios in which the correct decision applies to virtually any team, regardless of conversion ability, and coaches made the wrong decision at least twice (minimum -0.1 impact). -114th✓016-0.38 1to2A generic point+1.8 -121.11.3Same35.02.9One 7to8Puts you up a TD with a 2-point conversion+3.3 How to decide when to go for 2
PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.RESULTREADERS’ NET PTS The playoffs may never come after a bad startYears until teams made it to playoffs after starting season with 0-8 record, 2001-14 PHI90PHI90SF 10, PHI 33-1.4– ATL60ATL64ATL 25, NYJ 20+0.7– 2013Jacksonville4-12— CIN70CIN71IND 23, CIN 24-1.2– San Francisco0-81516.1 The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. Detroit3-42721.9 N.Y. Jets3-51920.1 2008Detroit0-163 FiveThirtyEight vs. The ReadersHalloween weekend gave some real frights to the readers in our NFL prediction game, in which we invite you to outsmart our Elo algorithm. The biggest came in the Buffalo Bills’ 34-14 win over the Oakland Raiders, where the readers were more hopeful that Derek Carr and company had turned a corner. Buffalo held serve at home and registered a net 12.8-point loss for our readers. The Miami Dolphins had their biggest nightmare of the season on Thursday, when their league-worst offense was shut out for the second time this season, this time against the Baltimore Ravens. That loss wasn’t pretty for the readers, either — they netted a 4.4-point loss.Week 8 wasn’t all gloom and doom for the readers, though. They enjoyed a 5.1-point net win in the Carolina Panthers’ 17-3 victory on the road over the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Dallas also came to the readers’ rescue, handing them 3.4 net points with its 33-19 win over Washington. Thanks for playing this week — be sure you make your Week 9 picks nice and early. 2008Cincinnati4-11-11 Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 8Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 8 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game Source: ESPN PIT52PIT57PIT 20, DET 15+2.1– 2010Buffalo4-12— KC78KC76DEN 19, KC 29-3.6– OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION We’re at the unofficial halfway point of the season, and with the possible exception of the Philadelphia Eagles, no team’s season has been without turbulence. The defense of the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots has been dreadful at times. Eli Manning and the New York Giants had a decent chance of making the playoffs in preseason, but they have proven to be terrible. Even teams that are currently cruising, like the Steelers and Saints, have had to survive rough patches. But one thing has been consistent in this strange season: The San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns have been utterly hopeless.This is nothing new. The Browns and 49ers rank No. 1 and No. 2 for fewest wins since Week 1 of 2015. And while the 49ers received some positive news Tuesday when they acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second-round draft pick, the Browns reportedly failed to notify the NFL about a trade for Bengals backup QB A.J. McCarron before the trade deadline. (So at least the Niners are better than the Browns when it comes to filing logistical paperwork.) Regardless, both teams are on course to finish last in their respective divisions for the third straight year.If they keep up their incompetence, the Browns and Niners will be rewarded with the opportunity to select the best college players in next year’s draft. The NFL’s draft system is designed to prevent teams from being too bad for too long, but this duo has defied that system in recent years — and may continue to do so. WINS N.Y. Giants1-62320.4 NO79NO75CHI 12, NO 20-4.0– WSH52DAL54DAL 33, WSH 19+3.4– Chicago3-51421.8 Cleveland0-81119.0 TB55%CAR52%CAR 17, TB 3+5.1– Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Indianapolis2-62716.0 2001Detroit2-1410 2014Oakland3-132 Oakland3-52220.6 SEASONTEAMFINAL RECORDYRS. TO PLAYOFFS BAL53BAL51MIA 0, BAL 40-4.4– SEA73SEA65HOU 38, SEA 41-8.2– The future is bleak for the Browns and 49ersFewest wins projected in the NFL over the next three seasons 2013Tampa Bay4-12— TEAM2017 RECORDPAST THREE SEASONSNEXT THREE SEASONS MIN84MIN86MIN 33, CLE 16-1.2– Arizona3-43119.9 Of the 10 teams that have started a season 0-8 from 2001 to 2014, half of them made the playoffs within the next three seasons. Some of these turnarounds shouldn’t be surprising, especially in the case of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, who lost Peyton Manning to a neck injury prior to the start of the season. They selected Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft and made the playoffs for the next three years. Likewise, the infamous 0-16 Detroit Lions parlayed their ineptitude in 2008 into Matthew Stafford and made the playoffs within three seasons.But then when you look at the other five teams that started 0-8 — which each averaged 4.7 wins a season for the three years after their 0-8 start — the future suddenly becomes gloomier.To test what the future holds for these two, we ran a regression to try to predict the total number of wins of all 30 teams over the next three seasons, based on statistics from the current season. We used some standard metrics: offensive and defensive expected points added and a concoction of each player’s age and number of snaps played. What our model spat out was interesting but not shocking: Cleveland and San Fran are projected to be two of the worst teams for the next three years. Perhaps the addition of Garoppolo will help the Niners outpace our projections slightly, and perhaps the Browns will finally develop that franchise quarterback, be it possible draft picks like Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold or Mason Rudolph or even current rookie starter DeShone Kizer. (Just kidding, it’s not DeShone Kizer.) But for both teams, our projections see no clear light at the end of the tunnel. NE84NE81LAC 13, NE 21-3.6– 2011Indianapolis2-141 2007St. Louis3-13— Miami4-32419.1 2007Miami1-151 BUF66BUF53OAK 14, BUF 34-12.8–
UPDATE (Sept. 25, 12:10 p.m.): Swiss authorities announced Friday that they were opening a criminal investigation into the activities of Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA. In June, when the FIFA corruption scandal broke, some of FiveThirtyEight’s editors and writers wildly speculated about building a new organization to right the wrongs of the old. Here’s an edited transcript of the Slack conversation we held. CORRECTION (June 3, 10 a.m.): An earlier version of this post referred incorrectly to a United Nations statistical measure. It is the Gender Inequality Index, not the Gender Equality Index. By FiveThirtyEight Carl Bialik (FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news): Sepp Blatter is stepping down as FIFA president. For the first time in 17 years, the global governing body of soccer will get new leadership. Domenico Scala, the chairman of FIFA’s audit committee, promised to work toward reforms. Blatter himself called for a “profound restructuring.”These are heady times for FIFA reformers. Many reformers in the past have proposed incremental changes like Scala’s, including term limits, robust anticorruption measures, transparency on executive pay and independent integrity checks. Lots of these suggestions probably are sensible and could improve governance, and they could have a better shot in the post-Blatter era.But let’s dream big, like the 24 teams contesting the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting this week. How would you change FIFA? Or if you could start it from scratch, what would it look like? I wrote last week about how one-country, one-vote lends itself to pork-barrel projects and corruption. What system would work better?Chadwick Matlin (senior editor): This, to me, feels like a governance/political science question as much as a sports one. What’s the best way for an organization to represent its people? And is it any different when it’s a diverse collection of nations instead of, say, one nation?Carl Bialik: Good question, Chad. It’s easier to say something is askew when Brazil, China and the U.S. have the same voting power as the Cayman Islands, the Seychelles and San Marino, than it is to figure out how best to apportion voting power.Neil Paine (senior sportswriter): Last week, Nate Silver wrote about what FIFA representation might look like if it was weighted more toward the nations more valuable to FIFA’s viewing audience. That’s one model of how to parcel out influence; I wonder what an alternative would be that doesn’t simultaneously fall into the same traps as the system in place under Blatter.Nate Silver (editor in chief): Even if you didn’t use an audience weighted toward the economic size of a country — and I can imagine all sorts of problems with doing that — you could at least use the unweighted audience numbers. Basically, how many soccer fans are there in each country? China ought to have way more voting power than Curacao.Chadwick Matlin: But more than Brazil?Carl Bialik: I’d also want to represent soccer players, because FIFA helps set rules and the tone for the global game. It might be time for FIFA to do another Big Count of its global players. Is there a way to also account for the untapped potential of countries to increase their interest in soccer? I worry that if we go by the sport’s current status worldwide we lock that in. The best part of Blatter’s reputation is what he did to grow the game worldwide, though I’m not sure that’s deserved.David Firestone (managing editor): Any global organization will have to deal with the same kinds of alliances, jealousies and resentments that a body like the U.N. does. The U.N. is hardly a great model for effectiveness, but since the stakes are much lower, a bicameral system like the Security Council/General Assembly probably still makes sense, giving extra weight to the big soccer powers. There would have to be far more transparency and outside monitoring than there is now, however.Allison McCann (visual journalist and former center midfielder for the Boston Breakers): But how do you award voting power to countries with two very different tiers of men’s and women’s programs? I’m thinking somewhere like Argentina, whose men’s teams finished second in the World Cup, but whose women’s team is not even at this year’s World Cup.Chadwick Matlin: Should women’s soccer and men’s soccer be represented by the same body? Has that been good for women’s soccer?Nate Silver: I’m fine with the notion that we aren’t counting past soccer success in allocating governing resources within FIFA. So, sure, China gets more power than Brazil — 1.4 billion people will do that for you. China has been one of the big failure stories under Blatter, really. The men’s team hasn’t improved at all, and the women’s team has regressed. And Allison, if we were using any women’s soccer-related indicators, it would heavily favor Europe, the Americas, Japan, etc. Unsurprisingly perhaps, countries that have better records for women’s rights and human rights in general have better women’s soccer teams.Allison McCann: Yeah, I was interested in that too, Nate. We looked briefly at the U.N. Gender Inequality Index to see how this held up; the biggest outlier was Brazil. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Our sports podcast Hot Takedown discusses Blatter’s resignation and the women’s World Cup. Subscribe on iTunes. Carl Bialik: Better records for rights sounds like a pretty good criterion for deciding who gets to run things!David Firestone: And also transparency. Countries and soccer programs that don’t have a good record of opening their books and decision-making to the public should have a harder time getting into the central body of FIFA, whatever it turns out to be.Carl Bialik: Transparency is a real theme in past reform efforts — for instance, releasing compensation information. I wonder if those efforts stick once people who wanted Blatter out have stopped paying attention to what comes next. Blatter was a master at calling for reforms and transparency, commissioning outside studies and then watering them down or not releasing them.David Firestone: Good point, Carl. They never took the need for reform seriously in the past, but a knock on the door by the FBI seems to have changed things quickly. At a minimum, it seems like Blatter’s replacement should insist on outside directors and outside inspector-generals to ensure that transparency is real from now on. Instituting strict term limits for directors would eliminate the entrenched bureaucrats and ensure that a variety of countries get a chance at governing.Neil Paine: A lot of this also gets into the mission of FIFA as a whole. What should its purpose be beyond simply governing the sport itself — or is that inextricably political in nature because it’s an international organization?Carl Bialik: Someone needs to run the World Cups, right? If not FIFA, who? And with the kind of money involved, seems like politics is inevitable.Nate Silver: Well, we see how complicated this can get. Personally, I have a huge problem with the World Cup having been awarded to Qatar for its record on gay rights and women’s rights alone. (Along with like 12 other reasons.) But: should Western values prevail? Are they more “universal” than other values, by virtue of being more tolerant? I’m not arguing for relativism here — I love me my liberal, Western values — but I’m saying it gets complicated real fast.Neil Paine: The cynical devil’s advocate might ask whether the World Cup should exist at all in its current form, given the non-positive presence it’s been known to have on local economies. But that in and of itself is an argument that only countries with existing infrastructure should host World Cups, which tends to heavily favor developed (and Western) nations, which is also problematic.Chadwick Matlin: I think this Slackchat is setting a FiveThirtyEight record for the number of question marks being used — this stuff is extraordinarily complicated. Maybe the question isn’t, “How should FIFA be restructured to stop corruption?” It’s “Can FIFA be restructured to stop corruption?”Nate Silver: But here’s the thing. Whether or not the wealthier, high-population countries have de jure power within FIFA, they have a lot of de facto power. A lot of leverage. As we wrote last week, the OECD countries, plus Brazil and Argentina, could render the World Cup totally unprofitable and unwatchable if they staged an opposing tournament. And the smaller countries would probably want to sign on to the OECD World Cup if given the choice.Carl Bialik: Yeah, I think Nate’s piece answers the question of whether FIFA can be restructured — or started over from scratch. (Maybe this time with an English-based acronym, not a French one.) At the cost of adding another question mark to the record total: Nate, do you think your breakaway soccer organization would be better for the game? I guess it couldn’t be much more corrupt, so there’s that.Nate Silver: In a perfect world, I suppose, they’d leave FIFA, but everyone would rejoin them again under some new umbrella organization after four or eight years. To some extent, that puts us back at square one. You still need to figure out the rules of the new federation. But at least you’d rid FIFA of some of its corruption in the near-to-medium term.David Firestone: But at some point the smaller countries are going to have to accept that global soccer is about the game, not about economic development. It’s been depressing to see how many developing countries have seen these games as a step toward enrichment, which FIFA has eagerly fed.Nate Silver: It’s not at all clear that FIFA has helped those countries at all economically. Or in football, for that matter. I’ll have some more numbers on this in an article later, but Africa didn’t improve at all under Blatter’s tenure. Asia maybe got a bit worse, especially the larger Asian countries like China.David Firestone: You mean because the cash for smaller countries has been siphoned off by top officials?Nate Silver: It’s a little outside of my knowledge base to know how that money is being spent. But in theory, it’s supposed to help them develop their national soccer programs, and we haven’t seen much evidence of improvement on the pitch.Allison McCann: I’m with Nate. I think FIFA’s too ruined for restructuring or reorganizing — time to blow it up and start over.Oliver Roeder (senior writer): Yes, burn it to the ground. FIFA doesn’t really “govern the sport,” right? It doesn’t make the rules — that’s done by the International Football Association Board. UEFA runs the Champions League. The Premier League is its own self-governing corporation. FIFA exists for one thing: the World Cup. It has to pick the place and figure out how to draw team names out of pots. Those are important things to figure out, yes, but don’t seem like rocket science. Why not stick it in the U.N., as has been suggested, or in the Swiss government — they’re impartial, right? The discussion of bicameralism and proportional representation and so on seems of second-order concern. What it needs is oversight, not internal structural fine-tuning.Allison McCann: Step one: The new FIFA is run by a woman. I nominate the great Pia Sundhage from a neutral country like Sweden with strong interests in both the men’s and women’s programs. That’s all I have for a start, hah!Nate Silver: It looks like FIFA’s executive committee had, what, only two or three women?Carl Bialik: I think one full member. And she was the first when she was elected in 2013! I like Ollie’s point — maybe the sport doesn’t need a single governing body. In fact, maybe it really doesn’t have one. We’d still have to figure out how to divvy up the spoils from World Cups, but as Nate and David point out, that isn’t being divvied up so well now. The weaker countries aren’t getting that much better, and lots of the money appears to have ended up enriching soccer officials rather than expanding the game.Nate Silver: Here’s one reform that could help the up-and-coming countries: more teams in the World Cup finals. Forty instead of 32.Carl Bialik: Prince Ali, the runner-up to Blatter in last week’s election, called for 36. Forty sounds even better.When I was preparing for this chat — hey, we don’t just mouth off, really! — I asked Deborah Unger, a former journalist who works in media relations for Transparency International, to weigh in. TI had studied FIFA reform before. She reasonably replied, “I think this will take more than a few minutes. … I don’t think we have time to design a new FIFA this evening. Is your deadline really now?” It’s a reasonable question. I don’t think we’ll settle things with this chat, but on the other hand, if World Cup governance is going to dramatically improve, it should probably happen soon, when everyone is paying attention.Nate Silver: I’m not leaving the office until we’ve solved soccer’s global governance problems. In the meantime, can we agree about what toppings to get on this pizza?
^^^ I don’t know, the Nats seem fine.neil: In a weird way, I think the fact that Washington is still the best in the East on paper probably informed their decision to stand pat. They are playing the long game: They want to re-sign Harper and run it back.sara.ziegler: I feel like deGrom was wishing last night that he had been traded.nrakich: Yeah, the Mets are another team that did almost nothing.gfoster: They didn’t trade deGrom or Zack Wheeler. They did get a decent pitcher (maybe?) for Asdrubal Cabrera. They got a ham sandwich for closer Jeurys Familia.nrakich: Maybe their uncertain GM situation played into that?neil: I think that’s definitely true. Hard to make massive franchise-altering decisions as a three-headed GM crew. Much easier to do nothing. But this has “Mets didn’t sell high on Matt Harvey, Part II” written all over it.gfoster: The Mets’ problem is the same as it always is: They operate like a big-market team and yet they have a small-market budget.nrakich: Yeah, holding onto deGrom/Noah Syndergaard would be totally defensible if they were planning on being big players in this offseason’s insane free-agent market and contending next year. But they just haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt on that.neil: Right, holding on to these guys is the right call only if you plan on bolstering the team around them and winning in a short-term window. But it’s not like this dumpster fire of a roster is just a few pieces away, and the Wilpons have seldom proved willing to spend to truly address the team’s problems anyway.gfoster: OK, let’s talk about a team that does like open the wallet: the Dodgers.neil: Who apparently want to acquire every multi-position infielder in baseball.sara.ziegler: That’s how you solve injuries to key players.neil: Yes, I actually really like what they did. They have a ton of flexibility and depth.And now they also have someone to police the unwritten rules of baseball etiquette.sara.ziegler: Shut up, Neil.neil: Haha.sara.ziegler: And they added John Axford! Whom I had forgotten was still in baseball!gfoster: What does that infield even look like when Justin Turner gets back? I guess Chris Taylor can be moved anywhere, and Max Muncy plays a few positions.nrakich: Yeah, Machado probably goes to short and Taylor becomes a super-utility guy.neil: And that’s the beauty of it — they have a bunch of those guys who can move around.gfoster: Maybe Taylor plays pitcher’s helper.sara.ziegler: Muncy can play ANYWHERE. (On my fantasy team, at least.)nrakich: But I agree with Neil that I really like that approach. The Dodgers don’t worry about being overstocked; they just acquire talent regardless of position.gfoster: Any underrated moves?sara.ziegler: The Indians got a little heat for not making bigger moves, but I like what they did. They made the smaller trades they needed to bolster their bullpen and outfield.The Tribe also made an interesting prospect swap with the Cardinals, getting speedy centerfielder Oscar Mercado for in exchange for two lower-minor prospects. Seems like a good move when considering the imminent free agency of Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera.nrakich: Fun fact: Going by FanGraphs WAR, Leonys Martin was the best player traded on deadline day. An underrated pickup, IMO.sara.ziegler: That’s kind of amazing. I agree, Nathaniel.neil: I also liked Atlanta getting Kevin Gausman. He’s underrated as a guy who chews up innings at a league-average rate. He’s averaged 2.9 WAR per year over the past couple seasons, and it on pace for basically exactly that this year.nrakich: Another guy who could benefit from moving out of the AL East.sara.ziegler: What do we think about Houston picking up Roberto Osuna?nrakich: Oh man, Sara, what don’t we think?I thought it was an incredibly cynical and disappointing move, but totally in character for the Astros — find market inefficiencies wherever you can, the human element be damned.sara.ziegler: Doesn’t seem like Justin Verlander is a big fan.neil: Well, Jeff Luhnow assures us he’s changed🙄gfoster: If I were running the Astros, I would have hid that move on the same day you traded for a Machado, Harper or deGrom type. The optics are REALLY bad for them that their lone significant move was picking up the guy on a domestic violence suspension.sara.ziegler: Wouldn’t it be nice if domestic violence carried the same weight as steroid abuse? 🤔 gfoster: The Rays have a rotation?!?!neil: LOL.As of now, it’s Glasnow and only Glasnow: nrakich: And Meadows has been in the big leagues for all of 150 at bats.Plus, is Archer really that good?gfoster: He’s a little overrated, I guess.nrakich: Archer is a household name, and he always has a good FIP (fielding-independent pitching), but he hasn’t lived up to it for several years.sara.ziegler: I would take 102 strikeouts in 96 innings pitched.nrakich: Don’t get me wrong, I love his peripherals. But he’s on his third straight year now with an ERA over 4. Something isn’t translating; I don’t think we can call it luck anymore.gfoster: In the AL East though. He won’t be facing the Red Sox and Yankees every other night now.neil: (On the other hand, he’s also not facing Chris Davis.)gfoster: Chris Davis is actually 98 of those strikeouts.sara.ziegler: I think that, for where the Pirates are in the standings, this isn’t a bad move. The Cubs and Brewers are catchable, and even if Pittsburgh doesn’t make the playoffs, this was an OK trade for the future.nrakich: I did find it interesting how the Pirates and Cardinals went into deadline day in essentially the same position, but the Pirates decided to buy and the Cardinals decided to sell. I feel like the Cardinals were the smart ones there.gfoster: Speaking of the AL East … the Orioles finally fully committed to the firesale. They unloaded Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, their entire bullpen, etc. Do we like what they got back?sara.ziegler: They got a LOT, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in there.neil: Yusniel Diaz was one of the best prospects acquired at the deadline.nrakich: That’s the thing about prospects, though — they’re lottery tickets. It’s good to get a lot of them, because then you will get lucky on more of them.gfoster: So they went out and bought 20 lottery tickets. That usually works.neil: And as we wrote about, many of the buyers had already emptied their farm systems in previous deals, so there weren’t as many future stars to be had in these deadline deals.nrakich: They also unloaded, what, $35 million? Baseball Twitter is speculating that they’ll use that money to be active in the international market.gfoster: Boston was relatively quiet. We have a Red Sox fan (Nathaniel) here and a quasi-Red Sox fan in Neil. Was there anything else they could have done?neil: They should have gotten bullpen help!!!sara.ziegler: They should have foreseen the Chris Sale injury and gotten another starter.Lance Lynn was there for the taking!neil: You mean Nate Eovaldi isn’t equivalent to Chris Sale???sara.ziegler: Um…nrakich: At first glance, the Red Sox look fine as is; they’re a loaded team, projected to finish with the best record in baseball. But as Neil has written extensively, the best teams should actually be the most desperate to buy, because the playoffs are such a crapshoot and you want to maximize your chances there when you can. That’s a long way of saying that, yeah, they should have done more.I would’ve liked to see them get future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre. Ian Kinsler kind of plugs that hole, but Beltre would look so good in that lineup.gfoster: We are big Adrian Beltre supporters here at FiveThirtyEight (as evidenced here and here).nrakich: That said, there’s another trade deadline at the end of August — the waiver trade deadline. Beltre could still be traded before then.gfoster: Yes, that’s key. The Astros got Verlander in this period a year ago.neil: I’ve long been a Kinsler fan, so it’s nice to see him in a position to impact another World Series run.sara.ziegler: It does sorta feel like the Red Sox and Yankees just kept pace with each other.Which is what they do.nrakich: 💪💪💪 racegfoster: The Yankees were more busy. Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, J.A. Happ. Not exactly star power, but they seemed to fill in any remaining holes in rotation and bullpen. Anything missing for them? Besides humility?nrakich: You know what Steinbrenner always used to say: Any season where you don’t trade for Bryce Harper is a disappointment.neil: In this insanely top-heavy year, the Yankees, Red Sox and other top contenders with roughly 100 percent playoff odds are just about making small tweaks for the real battles to come.gfoster: But it’s all for naught if you don’t win a one-game playoff, which presumably features Severino and not, say, Lance Lynn.sara.ziegler: Lynn wins Wild Card game in mop-up role after Severino gives up three runs in the first.neil: Not that Sara the Twins fan is bitter. ^^gfoster: Let’s talk Harper. Did the Nats do the right thing?nrakich: I will probably get some pushback on this, but I think the Nats should have bought. They’re still the best team in the NL East, with FanGraphs projecting they will go .577 the rest of the way.But there’s also a good argument for selling. Their Doyle Number was 0.3. Harper would have extracted a nice haul from a team like the Indians, who badly needed him. (Their outfielders have a .699 OPS on the season.)But they didn’t do either!They traded Brandon Kintzler, and that’s it.As Neil has written, doing nothing is pretty much the worst thing you can do.gfoster: Meanwhile, the Nats are still batting in the bottom of the seventh against the Mets, up 164-1. Keith Hernandez now pitching for New York.neil: LOL.sara.ziegler: nrakich: Yeah, that’s a ridiculous double standard. No way Houston trades for Osuna if he’s not eligible for the playoffs.sara.ziegler: Great point.nrakich: Although if I were commissioner, I’d have never instituted the no-playoffs-for-PED-users rule in the first place.gfoster: Colorado was oddly quiet? Do they know they are a half-game out of first?nrakich: They had a higher Doyle Number than the Braves!neil: Yeah, that was kind of a head-scratcher.nrakich: That would have been an interesting destination for Harper. (Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez are both not getting it done.) Could you imagine the dingers?gfoster: His home runs would be landing in Vail.neil: Another one that could blow up (or be brilliant) is the Cubs getting Cole Hamels. He has been very bad this year, and not good in a couple of years, but maybe you write that off to playing in Texas. He certainly has a great postseason reputation, and the Cubs’ rotation has been so bad that every little bit helps.nrakich: Hamels’s home run to fly ball ratio is 21 percent. I have to believe that’s gonna come down.To Neil’s point, he also has a 2.93 ERA on the road compared with 6.41 in Texas.gfoster: Last question: What was the biggest disappointment of the deadline?nrakich: I think the biggest disappointment, as a fan, was not seeing anything truly epic go down. There are good reasons for that, but the outlook for the rest of the season is basically what it was before the deadline.sara.ziegler: Definitely, Nathaniel. The trade deadline is way more fun when the big names switch teams. I would have loved to see Harper go to the Dodgers or deGrom to the Brewers. That kind of move always makes the stretch run more interesting.It’s substantially less fun when your team is bad and sells off guys you liked. *sad trombone*neil: Yeah, if there was a disappointment, it was that the most earth-shattering names being floated didn’t really get moved. We even got a brief tease overnight Monday that Harper might be on the move. But nope.gfoster: I wanted a relative underdog to take a bigger swing. Oakland was super quiet, despite being in a great position and having an interesting team. The only ballclub in this tier that went for it was Pittsburgh, and that deal was pretty much panned.nrakich: To borrow one of our favorite expressions from the politics desk, the deadline didn’t change my priors much. This is a Red Sox/Yankees/Astros/Dodgers/Cubs world, and everyone else is just living in it.gfoster: Feels like a Debbie Downer ending for us? But at least these last two months will be fun. The top teams are all absolutely loaded.Update: Nationals have taken a 754-5 lead in the eighth. Mr. Met is pitching and his stuff doesn’t look good. gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): It’s officially August, which means the MLB trade deadline has passed and baseball’s contenders (more or less) have all their pieces in place for the stretch run. There were a boatload of moves over the past couple of weeks and a bunch at the buzzer yesterday, so let’s sort it out with a Slack chat! Let’s start with this: What was the most surprising move (or nonmove) of the past month?Also: Sorry for promising bagels and then not bringing bagels.sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, general editor): I feel betrayed.neil (Neil Paine, senior sports writer): I guess it doesn’t count as “surprising” that the Mets froze up and didn’t do anything significant of note with their most tradeable assets…sara.ziegler: The Brewers stockpiling infielders when they needed a pitcher is a little confusing. But I guess when you can’t get Jacob deGrom, you get … Jonathan Schoop.nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst/baseball writer): Yeah, Sara, I thought that was a lateral move for the Brewers. Schoop has the same WAR (FanGraphs version) as Jonathan Villar, whom the Brewers traded. But they also gave up two prospects, including their No. 4 prospect, Luis Ortiz.Schoop brings power while Villar brings speed, but the Brewers are already tied for third in the National League in home runs.sara.ziegler: I’m still really bummed that the Brewers didn’t demand Eric Hosmer from the Padres to complete their reconstruction of the 2015 Royals.nrakich: Most surprising to me was the Pirates’ trade for Chris Archer. They made a big show of dumping Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen during the offseason, and now they turn around and get Archer, who is a poor excuse for Cole. Cole, meanwhile, has gone absolutely bananas in Houston.neil: That I agree with ^^nrakich: Cole has a 2.55 ERA and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings this year. If the Pirates had that, they’d be in prime Wild Card position right now. Instead, they get a third of a season of Archer and his 4.31 ERA.neil: The Pirates have been hot recently — they’ve won 16 of 20, including Tuesday night vs. the Cubs — but it was almost the worst time to get hot, because it convinced them to buy after (like you said) acting like sellers for a while. That said, Archer is under team control longer than Cole would have been, so it’s not a totally win-now move for Pittsburgh.sara.ziegler: Yeah, I don’t think the Pirates took their Doyle Number to heart.gfoster: But don’t you respect a team for going for it? There’s less of that now with all the teams trying to tank — as Neil wrote this week. Also, I don’t think Austin Meadows or Tyler Glasnow are THAT good. They could be almost selling high.nrakich: Ooh, fightin’ words. The tarnish has gone off their prospect shine, but there’s still time for them to turn it around.gfoster: They are touted prospects, but are they stars? Will the Pirates regret this in five years?nrakich: Glasnow has turned things around after a rough start to the season:
gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): The wild-card weekend — the best weekend — is in the books, and it would be hard to argue that it wasn’t great. Three of four road teams won. With the exception of the Colts wiping out the Texans, every game was within a touchdown. Let’s start with the most recent result: Nick Foles and the Eagles taking down the vaunted Bears defense in Soldier Field. This one was nuts — I’m not sure where to begin. Is this Eagles team under Foles doing it again? Do they need to order new dog masks?Salfino (Michael Salfino, contributor): I guess we have to ask seriously if Foles Magic is real.neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Foles has won four consecutive playoff starts as an underdog. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, that’s tied for the third most ever. No. 2 is Jim Plunkett with five; No. 1 is Eli Manning with seven.Is Foles the Eagles’ Eli???? gfoster: The big thing about this next Dallas game: I still don’t know what has happened to the Rams. They couldn’t have less buzz entering the playoffs — and that’s a team that was looking virtually unbeatable at the halfway point. Or maybe it’s all some elaborate Sean McVay ruse?joshua.hermsmeyer: I have a theory!gfoster: Cooper Kupp injury?Salfino: The story for the Rams now is that their play-action game has collapsed. Is it teams ignoring the run threat? Todd Gurley being banged up/out? Kupp? Something is amiss. They are down, like, 4 yards per play-action pass since Week 9.This is definitely going to be a home game for Dallas. The Rams will run silent counts in this game, I’m serious.joshua.hermsmeyer: I think the Rams’ success is very scheme-dependent, and sometimes play-callers hold on to their best counters and keep them off the tape if they know they will make the playoffs. Basically, they want to save their good plays for when it counts. The past few games were completely different in terms of personnel usage (two tight ends vs. three wide receivers) than the rest of the season when they were so successful.Salfino: This is a good point. It’s like how teams that know going for 2 makes sense don’t do it because they want to save their highest-ranked goal-line plays for touchdowns.gfoster: Ah, yes — the old theory on Belichick. That he is hiding his playoff scheme when toiling in the regular season.neil: I do wonder how much of that is real and how much we map onto legitimate (or even random) struggles as a way of explaining them.Salfino: Belichick was always getting the top seeds though anyway. He didn’t hide it against the Jets in 2010. 🙂neil: ^^^Thisgfoster: Neil is so anti-Sean McVay love.joshua.hermsmeyer: That is admittedly a huge danger, Neil. But I always like a good theory!Salfino: Yes, Neil’s point is good. The simplest reason is that they’re trying but teams have adjusted.neil: I think I feel the need to counter the football media’s obsession with Young Genius Play-Callers (TM).Salfino: McVay is a generational talent.joshua.hermsmeyer: lolgfoster: Lastly, let’s talk about the Colts and, specifically, Frank Reich’s awesome beard. And more specifically, how much fun will this game be against the Chiefs? Feels like a 60-, 70-point affair.neil: Are Frank Reich and Adam Vinatieri having a graybeard contest? Who gets to Santa Claus-level first?Salfino: Reich looks like he conceives his gameplans in a cabin in the woods by candlelight.Marlon Mack is sending a message to Le’Veon Bell, I guess, that the Colts are fine at RB.joshua.hermsmeyer: Vegas really seems to like the Colts. K.C. is just a 5.5-point favorite, which strikes me as very strange. I may place a wager.neil: Are they skittish about Andy Reid?gfoster: The Colts are definitely the public favorite right now. Kinda the opposite of the Rams.neil: Memories of this?joshua.hermsmeyer: Overweighting defense, IMO.Salfino: I agree that this line is too low. The Colts, like Dallas, have an underrated defense. Darius Leonard is so phenomenal. He could be defensive player of the year he’s so good. But that spread is narrative-driven given the Chiefs’ playoff woes, I believe. It should be, like, 8.neil: Might also be recency-based. Our own Elo only has K.C. -4.5. Salfino: Josh and I agree that offense mostly dictates outcomes. And the Chiefs get a break by playing a team that has not seen their offense, vs. getting San Diego.Indy is super hot, and Elo likes that.neil: Right.And K.C. has only won three of its past six — after winning nine of its first 10.gfoster: It’s strength vs. strength. The Colts’ protection for Andrew Luck is incredible, and the Chiefs get at the quarterback more than anyone — or are those sack numbers more a reflection of teams always passing against K.C. because they are always losing?Salfino: But the Colts also lost to the Jets, let’s not forget. They own that too.If the Chiefs are hoping to win the game by getting to Luck, they are in serious trouble. They have to win this game by scoring 35 points.joshua.hermsmeyer: I’ve looked at it, and it certainly seems based on the data that protection or lack thereof is more a function of the offensive line, so you’d expect Luck to have time in this one.gfoster: The Colts draft trade was an A+. They get those Jets second-round picks, and they got Quenton Nelson, who seems to have single-handedly turned this offensive line around. With the cap space, there’s no doubt that they are going to be good for a while. (Assuming Luck stays healthy.)Salfino: Eric Ebron is only a factor near the goal line. Mack is good but sort of one-dimensional, kind of Carson-like. T.Y. Hilton is great, but you should be able to take out one guy. Kansas City cannot give up big plays to Hilton and must force those journeyman receivers to beat them.neil: Certainly it seems very unlikely that the Colts will be able to replicate their winning formula vs. Houston, which was, “Get out to an early lead with Luck passing, then sit on it and run the ball in the second half.” You can’t do that to the Chiefs.joshua.hermsmeyer: lol, noSalfino: The Colts also had the advantage of Deshaun Watson just having an awful throwing game. He was flagging easy passes all day.Also, Houston is a one-man band, and DeAndre Hopkins had a shoulder issue but also was shut down in their prior matchup.gfoster: All right, let’s wrap it with our NFC/AFC championship predictions. I’ll start: Chargers vs. Chiefs and Saints vs. Cowboys.I’m not ready to believe the Rams rope-a-dope theory. And I’m not ready to believe that these Patriots are any good.joshua.hermsmeyer: I see no world where the Cowboys are in the championship.gfoster: FAIRSalfino: The Chargers seem clearly better than the Patriots. I hope they don’t go back to L.A. this week and instead practice somewhere on the East Coast. I can’t buy Dallas. If the Cowboys beat the Rams, we better put the McVay narrative in rewrite. I say Chargers-Chiefs and Rams-Saints in the championship games.joshua.hermsmeyer: I’m with Mike, which means I’m probably wrong.😛Salfino: 🙂neil: New England vs. K.C. (I know the Pats will eventually lose a home playoff game, but I don’t think it comes this weekend.)Saints vs. Rams is the NFC title game shootout we need.(So I’m picking chalk! Now watch the Eagles beat New Orleans and keep the underdog streak rolling.)Salfino: We are all completely discounting Foles’s dark magic.gfoster: The dream of the All-L.A. Super Bowl is alive! Note: Literally no one is dreaming of this, even in L.A.Salfino: If the Colts beat the Chiefs and the Chargers win, the AFC championship is going to be in front of 30,000 screaming Colts fans.Check out our latest NFL predictions. joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): Whew. And the Eagles lost the turnover battle soundly as well. I think we must conclude magic.Salfino: He did have 10 points through 59 minutes. Foles comping to Eli is funny since I guess he could conceivably replace Eli.gfoster: The Eagles were the sloppy, mistake-filled team of the two yesterday. Some of that can be chalked up to the Bears defense; rookie Roquan Smith made a great play on one of Foles’s two interceptions. But the Philly defense was also struggling to stop Mitchell Trubisky in the second half, which means Drew Brees will tear that pass defense apart, right?Salfino: If you had told me that Trubisky would throw for 300 yards and Chicago would get two picks and not have a turnover, I would have guaranteed victory even more stridently than I did here last week.neil: (Which was pretty stridently.)Salfino: 🙂joshua.hermsmeyer: If Eagles rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox continues to try to jump every route, then Brees will destroy him. I have to think he’ll be much less aggressive after getting completely torched by Allen Robinson though.Salfino: You have a 41-point prior matchup now, too, with the Eagles obviously on the short end. But that was with that bum Carson Wentz.Rex Ryan is saying right now that Wentz has to get traded.neil: The other thing was that the Eagles’ running game continued to struggle. They were second to last in the NFL in yards per carry during the season and averaged 1.8 yesterday. Even in today’s NFL, with the running game taking on less importance, those numbers seem like they will haunt Philly eventually. (Of course, the two mega-run-heavy playoff teams are now out, so maybe it won’t matter!)gfoster: I wonder why the Eagles have given up on Josh Adams. He felt like the player who sparked this turnaround, in addition to Foles. They give Darren Sproles two goal-line carries when they were on the 1?Salfino: Sproles oddly has been a very effective goal-line runner: 8-for-12 goal-line converting in his career. League average is a little under 50 percent. I was shocked that the Eagles run defense held up. I thought the Bears would control the game on the ground even with Jordan Howard.In Philly’s last meeting with New Orleans, the Saints got 174 yards from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram on 29 carries. Plus Brees had mad efficiency.joshua.hermsmeyer: Chicago was better statistically on offense in every category except for third-down conversions and red-zone efficiency. If the Bears had used Tarik Cohen more, I think they would have won pretty easily.Salfino: Cohen getting just one carry and five targets is a joke. I think this was Matt Nagy’s biggest mistake by far. The loyalty all year to Howard given his production is mysterious.neil: Josh, it was that kind of cruel game for the Bears — those categories are really important to Ws and Ls but are also the most heavily influenced by variance. Oh, and also special teams — the post-and-crossbar special from Cody Parkey was impressive.gfoster: It was blocked! Let’s leave Parkey alone.joshua.hermsmeyer: Absolutely. It was positive Eagles variance Foles Magik. Incredible.Salfino: People breaking down that kick at the pixel level is pretty funny. I guess it was blocked? Can’t we just ask the Eagle?neil: Only Treyvon Hester knows for sure.gfoster: He said he blocked it. That’s what started the Zapruder film-level analysis in the first place.joshua.hermsmeyer: I saw a pic of his hand in the locker room, so.Salfino: I note that on that last Philadelphia drive, the Bears were not getting there with four pass-rushers and didn’t try to get there with more.gfoster: In the first game Sunday, we saw the demise of Baltimore’s run-heavy offense. The crowd was chanting for Joe Flacco at one point. If you are chanting for Joe Flacco in the playoffs, you don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.neil: (Unless the season is 2012 — and only 2012.)gfoster: Did John Harbaugh make the right call?neil: Well, what was funny to me was that right when they started calling for Flacco was when Lamar Jackson’s passing started picking up.Salfino: Has a QB who is unproven ever deserved to be benched more in a game of that magnitude than Jackson? Even with the closeout, his QBR for the game was under 10.neil: He literally didn’t complete a pass between 1:07 p.m. ET and 3:06 p.m. ET Sunday.joshua.hermsmeyer: Yes. Putting Flacco in the game appeals to our basest football instincts, but there is nothing about Jackson’s game that suggests he can’t make deep throws against zone out of structure. His issue is throwing on time and on target from the pocket. A mad scramble at the end of the game in catch-up mode is actually pretty well-suited to his game.Salfino: I did not think the Chargers would do anything exotic with their defense, and they played a 4-4-3, but the back seven was almost always all defensive backs, including three safeties. It seems so obvious now: Get fast guys on the field and slower linebackers off the field against Jackson. But I didn’t think of going small against a running game.Watching Flacco is hardly appealing. I would have benched Jackson to start the second half but would have had extremely low confidence that it would have worked. I had zero confidence then that Jackson would work.gfoster: The Chargers had a great scheme. And that scheme only works when you have guys like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram up front, allowing you to play all those fast defensive backs to track down Jackson.joshua.hermsmeyer: Not only track down Jackson — but stop the run! I thought it was glorious and something we will see more of from NFL teams in the future.Salfino: Bosa and Ingram were so disciplined and effective all game. The personnel trick will get a lot of publicity, but the real story I think was how those ends played.neil: One thing that also contributed to Baltimore’s offensive struggle was a topic near and dear to your hearts, guys: play-action.Jackson averaged 1.0 yards per attempt on play-action Sunday; in Week 16 vs. the Chargers, he averaged 12.8.Salfino: The Ravens use play-action to set up the run, I think. They play backwards.joshua.hermsmeyer: At one point, the Ravens’ net passing yards were -2, so I believe it.Salfino: They had running holes in the prior matchup that were so gigantic. How has no other team ever thought of this? Now that’s the blueprint. So the Ravens have an offseason to counter.gfoster: Los Angeles now plays Tom Brady, who is essentially the opposite of Lamar Jackson in every way. The Chargers with Philip Rivers at starting quarterback are 0-7 versus the Patriots when Brady plays. Even considering New England’s dominance in this period, that’s hard to believe.neil: Pats also haven’t lost a home game since Oct. 1, 2017.They haven’t lost a home playoff game since Jan. 20, 2013.Salfino: I thought Rivers looked bad and has mostly looked bad down the stretch of the season. His only Rivers-like game since Dec. 2 was against the Chiefs. Two Ravens games hurts obviously, though. He seemed like he was throwing a weighted football yesterday. A 10-pound ball to 300-pound Antonio Gates.joshua.hermsmeyer: Vegas has the Chargers as 4.5-point dogs on the road, and I think that’s a good reflection of reality. I think the Chargers have a very good shot of knocking the Patriots out — especially if they can scheme up counters to Gronk in his dotage and Julian Edelman. Then it will just be about not letting guys like White and Patterson gash you.Salfino: Are these really the Patriots though? What is their defining strength? Where are they even above average? Avoiding sacks, I guess.neil: This has definitely been kind of a “down” year by Pats standards. Yet they still ranked fifth in offensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and eighth overall, according to Football Outsiders. And two of the teams ahead of them in total DVOA are gone from the playoffs already. (Granted, one of the teams ahead of them is the Chargers.)Salfino: Man, if Cordarrelle Patterson is a major guy you have to worry about, you’re in pretty good shape defensively.The Patriots make all their spares on offense. No strikes though.joshua.hermsmeyer: It just seems like such a Bill Belichick move to create a special gameplan for him in the playoffs.Salfino: Nothing is easy now for New England.gfoster: Let’s talk about the Saturday games. Who would have thought halfway through this season that we would have TWO NFC East teams in the divisional round? I don’t know what to make of this Cowboys’ team.Salfino: Dallas had a big assist from Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. I turn it over to Josh. 🙂neil: Oh, boy.joshua.hermsmeyer: Someone had to win that game is all I can say.Salfino: Schotty dusted off the Mark Sanchez Rookie Playoff Gameplan for Russell Wilson, who’s a Hall of Famer. It was weird.neil: I loved the Seahawks’ single-minded devotion to not using Russell Wilson.joshua.hermsmeyer: Going run-run-pass on their first series of the game was breathtaking in its devotion to establishing the run.neil: That one sequence where it was like:Shotgun run for 3Shotgun run for 0Shotgun run for 222-yard bomb downfieldShotgun run for 3Shotgun run for 2Salfino: Dallas controlled the game, but you really felt that the play-calling by the Seahawks was controlling Seattle.The low-percentage passing was a story for that game, too. It’s like Schottenheimer hasn’t figured out that the rules have opened up the intermediate middle of the field. That’s the attack zone now.joshua.hermsmeyer: When Seattle finally did get a long run from Rashaad Penny, they ran him on a sweep to the wide side of the field immediately after even though he was gassed from the previous run. They lost 7 yards.Salfino: Seattle made, like, eight plays on offense the entire game.Negative runs are a Penny special though. To be fair.joshua.hermsmeyer: If you have no feel for passing, you better have a feel for the run game, is all I’m saying.Salfino: Chris Carson had nothing all day, for sure. And he’s been good-to-great.gfoster: I give credit to the Dallas defense though — bad play-calling by Seattle aside. We watched this team completely bottle up the Saints a few weeks ago. They are not given enough credit.Salfino: Seattle’s defense had its problems, too. Allowing Dak Prescott to convert that QB draw play at the end of the game was insane. You have to be looking for that in that spot given the clock. And you let him convert a third-and-14 draw where the field goal there is absolutely meaningless because you were down your kicker anyway.I agree that the Dallas D is very underrated.joshua.hermsmeyer: I don’t think Dallas’s defense is going to help them much moving forward. It hasn’t helped anyone else:
The Big Ten’s “Honoring Legends, Building Leaders” Mobile Tour has arrived at Ohio State, and it brought a coveted piece of hardware along for the ride. The tour will make a stop at every Big Ten University up until the Dec. 3 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. Its first stop at OSU was at Wednesday’s men’s soccer game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Fans had a chance to pose with the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, which will be presented to the conference champion. The trophy is named for Amos Alonzo Stagg, who coached at the turn of the 20th century and invented many maneuvers seen in modern football, as well as Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the active and all-time wins leader in NCAA football bowl subdivision history. Buckeye Nation will have additional chances see the trophy in-person this week. The tour will make a stop at the RPAC tomorrow from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., before its Friday stop at the Schottenstein Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour’s final stop on Saturday will last from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. between Ohio Stadium and St. John Arena. Nora Skotko, a third-year in social work, said she saw the trophy as she arrived for Wednesday’s men’s soccer game. “It doesn’t grab your attention,” Skotko said. Still, Skotko said she thought it would be “cool” for students and alumni to see the trophy while it is on campus. The Buckeyes will host Colorado Saturday at ‘the Shoe at 3:30 p.m.
The Ohio State and Kansas men’s basketball programs met during the regular season, but Buckeyes sophomore forward Jared Sullinger and Jayhawks junior forward Thomas Robinson did not. When the two players square off Saturday in a national semifinal match, they will do so with some new hardware. With less than a week to go before OSU takes on Kansas in an NCAA Tournament semifinal match, Sullinger and Robinson were both handed first-team All-American honors by the Associated Press Monday. Sullinger received the honor for a second-consecutive year and is the first player since former North Carolina forward Tyler Hansborough (2008, 2009) to accomplish that feat. The AP has now bestowed the honor on an OSU player in each of the last three consecutive seasons, including former Buckeye guard Even Turner in 2010. Robinson receives the award for the first time in his career and is the first unanimous First-Team selection since former Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin in 2009. Sullinger and Robinson were also named to the John R. Wooden Award All-American team Monday. The Buckeyes traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, to play KU on Dec. 10, 2011 and lost, 78-67, on the Jayhawks’ home court. OSU was without the services of Sullinger, who traveled to Lawrence but missed the contest due to back spasms. In Sullinger’s absence, Robinson scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help lead KU. During a Monday teleconference, Jayhawks coach Bill Self said he knows Kansas caught a break that day, but praised the decision to keep the player off the court. “Looking back now – what a smart decision,” Self said os OSU coach Thad Matta’s decision not to play Sullinger. “Why risk anything? And (OSU is) still a team that goes to the Final Four.” Self also said Robinson and the rest of his team are looking forward to a rematch with OSU. “I know (Robinson) will be excited. I know he thinks a lot of Jared,” Self said. “Certainly we’ll get an opportunity to play not only a great team but one of the premier players in the country.” Matta, who said he expects both teams to be different in the rematch Saturday, was equally complimentary of Kansas’ All-American honoree, saying Robinson is a special player. “(Robinson) can hurt you in so many ways,” Matta said. “That’s what great players have the capability of doing. (Kansas) is playing at a high level right now, and Thomas Robinson is the key.” Joining Sullinger and Robinson on the Associated Press’ First-Team is Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis,Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green and Creighton sophomore forward Doug McDermott. Player to receive Second-Team nods from the AP included Murray State junior guard Isaiah Canaan, Missouri senior guard Marcus Denmon, West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, North Carolina senior forward Tyler Zeller and Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder. The national semifinal game between the Buckeyes and Jayhawks will tip Saturday at about 9 p.m.
Ohio State redshirt senior receivers Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon celebrate after Campbell records his second touchdown reception of the day. Ohio State defeated Tulane 49-6. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorAs Urban Meyer walked through Ohio Stadium for the first time since returning from his three-game suspension, the focus began to shift back to football.While all the headlines were on the head coach’s first game back on the sidelines, and with No. 10 Penn State coming up next week, No. 4 Ohio State left no doubt on the field, outplaying an undermatched Tulane team from start to finish in a 49-6 victory.Haskins said it was great to have Meyer back on the sidelines.“We missed not having him there the first of the year,” Haskins said. “Being with him before we go out on the field together, the excitement he brings, the energy he brings, it was definitely missed.”Ohio State outgained Tulane 570-256 in total yards, most of which came through the air.Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins throwing for 304 yards and five touchdowns in the first half, and tied for the third most 300-yard games in school history after only his fourth start.Haskins said he wants to show how good this Ohio State offense can be.“I just want to show how dangerous this offense is,” Haskins said. “With me at the helm a lot of plays can be made.”Nearly half of Haskins’ production came through redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell, who tallied 147 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.Haskins found Campbell early and often in Ohio State’s 43-point win over the Green Wave. With a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Haskins, with plenty of time in the pocket, found a streaking Campbell, placing the ball perfectly over his shoulder. Though the redshirt senior receiver bobbled the catch, he came up with it in bounds, giving Ohio State a 21-0 lead. Ohio State would not give up that lead for the remainder of the game.On the defensive side, playing without junior defensive end Nick Bosa and redshirt junior defensive tackle Robert Landers, who were out with injuries, Ohio State continually found its way to the backfield, ending the day with 13 tackles for loss and three sacks.Meyer was impressed by the way the defense shut down senior quarterback Jonathan Banks, who threw for 141 yards, and ran for only 14 for the Green Wave.“It was a tough game,” Meyer said. “[Banks] only threw the ball 14 times, and he’s a hell of an athlete, so the biggest thing is getting him down and not having something pop up behind you.”Tulane managed to slow down both Ohio State running backs, with redshirt junior Mike Weber rushing six times for 18 yards, and sophomore J.K. Dobbins ending with 11 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown.Weber would leave the game in the second quarter after coming up limping on a run out of bounds, and would not return.Ohio State was held scoreless in the third quarter with redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell at the helm, gaining only 10 yards in the first time it has been held without a point in a quarter all season.Martell came in for a drive in the second quarter, then played the entirety of the second half, ending the day with 115 yards passing and 22 yards on the ground, including a one-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.Ohio State will take on Penn State in Happy Valley on Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.Story updated at 8:23 p.m. to include quotes from Meyer and Haskins.
Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions has been fined £5 million after admitting health and safety breaches over the Smiler rollercoaster crash.Two teenagers – Vicky Balch, then 19, and Leah Washington, then 17 – each lost a leg in the collision in June last year which “changed the lives of some of those injured in the most dramatic way”, according to a judge.Stafford Crown Court heard that the victims had watched with “disbelief and horror” before ploughing into an empty carriage on the track, with the impact likened by the prosecution to a 90mph car crash. The judge added: “This was a needless and avoidable accident in which those injured were fortunate not to have been killed or bled to death.”He said the injured “endured great pain and distress” while waiting for medical help, with the first 999 call not made until 17 minutes after the crash. It took up to five hours for them to be freed from the wreckage.He added: “Those in the front row bore the brunt of the collision and had their legs crushed in the tangled steel.”He said that all 16 people aboard the carriage had been “injured to various degrees”, adding that the company’s safety failure had been “putting at risk the safety of thousands of young people and children”.Of those affected, he said the most moving accounts had been from the families of those hurt, some of whom had to give up careers and move home in order to care for their loved ones.The judge said the relatives and the injured had shown “great courage and fortitude” in the aftermath.Beginning sentencing, he said: “Human error was not the cause as was suggested by the defendant in an early press release.”The defendant now accepts the prosecution case that the underlying fault was an absence of a structured and considered system not that of individuals’ efforts, doing their best within a flawed system.”Members of the public have been exposed to serious risk of one train colliding with another with a computer control system was reset, having been overridden to address a fault.” Alton Towers theme park Smiler ride accident victim Vicky Balch, arrives at Stafford Crown CourtCredit:Rui Vieira/PA Wire Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The company was fined after the court heard that an engineer “felt pressure” to get the Smiler back into service after it developed a fault shortly before the devastating crash.An expert witness report, compiled by consultant Stephen Flanagan, also said Alton Towers management linked bonuses to “acceptably low levels of downtime” on their rollercoasters.Judge Michael Chambers QC called the accident a “catastrophic failure” by the company involving basic health and safety measures.He said the “obvious shambles of what occurred” could have been “easily avoided” by a suitable written system to deal with ride faults and a proper risk assessment.